Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Schizophrenia and Driving a Car

My daughter has mentioned over the years as well as in the last two months that she wants a car and drive. Right now I can’t see her driving. It would be far too dangerous for her and others as well as the safety of my grandchildren. Do your children ever mention driving or do they drive?

I found a piece in the NY Times today on this subject published in 2009.

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There is absolutely nothing within walking distance here. We live in the suburbs and you have to drive about 10 minutes to get anywhere.

My son has a driver’s license, but we argue about him driving. When he was somewhat stable about 7/8 years ago, he’d drive back & forth to a couple friends houses. Sometimes, he’s taken the care and gone out late at night while we’re sleeping. He drove himself back & forth to the local community college for a class a few years ago, but we practiced the route several times before he went on his own.

Since he got out the hospital, he said he wanted to drive me places - so that lasted a couple days. He didn’t do too bad a job, but there’s lots of traffic here, so I was constantly reminding him about things - which aggravates him. He says he’ll never learn if I keep telling him to do everything.

The few times we fought so bad about him driving alone, I’ve told him to just take the car & go. He gets about 5 minutes away, turns around & comes home.

I worry about him getting lost, how he would handle an accident, all kinds of things, but I do hope he will be able to drive soon so he can have a little independence. Before, my biggest reservations were the sedation because he was taking high doses of suboxone and klonopin. He’s not sedated now when he’s awake, so that’s better. Maybe once he gets more practice driving in traffic again.

That being said, I totaled my first car at 16, about a month after getting my license, and I had enough tickets by my early 20’s that I had to go to a meeting or lose my license.

My son’s never had a ticket or an accident. The worst thing he’s done is run over a curb & ruin a tire/rim.


If your daughter can get a license, navigate buying her own car, pay for insurance, and drive safely without tickets or accidents, it’s up to her isn’t it?

I think driving might be somewhat easy to limit if she doesn’t own a car and have her own insurance.

If you want her to drive, you can help. If you don’t, don’t let her borrow your car.

If she becomes motivated and gets a job so she can buy a car and afford car insurance along with her other expenses, celebrate her incredible accomplishment.


She doesn’t have enough income to buy a car, insurance and maintain it as well. And I don’t have the resources to buy her a car and neither will I lend her my car.

Perhaps things will change for her and she finds a job and save for a car. This could be a motivation for her to stay on course. I’ve learned the hard way giving my daughter expensive items does not help her at all. I would be enabling her to always look to me for a bailout or answers. I hope that she’ll be able to work in the near future but much depends on her and her ability to focus on her recovery.


I have schizophrenia and have driven before and after my diagnoses. I leave the house everyday and drive. I do work and drive there. I also drive myself to my drs. appointments . I also make the car payment pay for gas and insurance as well as any maintenance the car needs as well. I have a clean driving record as well.


My son has a car and drives daily. Prior to his illness, we purchased it for him to drive to and from work and college. Right before he became psychotic, he left the house in the morning and was out all day. We live in the suburbs of a major metropolitan city. I called him at night and he told me he was lost. He continued to get himself lost and finally at midnight I tracked him on his phone and talked him home. After that I noticed his paranoia and other symptoms. I used the car and driving as leverage to get him to agree to treatment. As long as he’s stable and med compliant, he can drive the car.


I would be happy if my son could drive, but he is too anxious to do so. Guess we will wait for a self-driving car!


They say that self-driving cars will be available to everyday people sooner than we ever thought.

The idea is great for our kids, but otherwise, I’m not so sure about the idea.

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I think driving is different for each person. One of my best friends who is fifty-five and sz, she has always had her own car, her parent usually help her a bit with buying one when she needs a new one. One good point is that she doesn’t have a substance abuse problem. My son, who has sz, however is twenty-six and he says he can’t drive. In the past couple of years he’s had two car accidents and two minor motorcycle accidents. He’s addicted to marijuana though and his illness is progressing because he refuses treatment. Even though we live in a very rural area he rides his bike or catches rides. One time a few months back he borrowed our truck to pick up some of his things at a friend’s place and he said driving there and back was like working an eight hour day.


My 23y/o daughter wants to do anything she is told she is not allowed to do because she is defiant and rebellious. Keys have to be hid around her! She is so far gone at this point in her life that I shudder to think of the devastation that her getting behind the wheel would cause. But, yes, she is obsessed with wanting to drive a car!!!

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Looking forward to the day that my daughter can do the same! Wonderful for you!

Our daughter had her psychotic break at age 18-19. After about a year’s treatment, she wanted to drive.

I should start by mentioning that she has the 22q11.2 chromosome deletion syndrome (VCFS), which makes her friendly and compliant despite having schizophrenia (it can be one of the symptoms of VCFS).

We paid for five courses of driver’s ed. After five tries she passed the written and road tests, and we gave her my husband’s old car. She was living fairly independently by then. We paid all its expenses as she had only SSI and was too ill to work. We are her legal guardians and take care of all her bills, as she doesn’t have the IQ or executive function to do that, and has ADHD.

Things turned out very well. She’s now in her late 30s, works part-time, has SSDI, and is married. She now is on her third used car (her husband put in half the cost).

She has never caused an accident but has been hit three times in parking lots. That’s when we realized that just as important as knowing how to drive a car is being “together” enough to deal with an accident! Keeping your cool even if the other driver’s behaving badly, calling the police and insurance (required by law), dealing with the tow truck (her insurance provides towing), finding a different way to get to work, etc.

I’d say that the decision about driving is like anything else with a person who has challenges. Start very small and go inch-by-inch. “Small” would = taking driver’s ed, qualifying for the license, driving short distances in a borrowed car, proving he/she can manage routine car maintenance, insurance, etc. (unless you plan to do this), describing what to do in an accident (maybe role-playing?), and helping to save for a used car.

Help your child keep an eye on the prize–which is being able to get where he/she wants and needs to go. Taxis exist and so do parents and friends and (sometimes) buses and subways, even if car ownership is not achieved soon–or perhaps ever.


@Elizabethsdaughter - a very uplifting and realistic story. Thank you for posting. I love how you encouraged your daughter by small doable steps.

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I see this is a really old thread…but had to comment here. Our 20 yr old daughter with sz is EXACTLY the same!! Thank for the validation

My daughter wanted to drive see tried out with two different driving teachers both said she would not be able to pass.One teacher told me she had commited a major infraction .She pulled out in front of an oncoming car.This was the end of her driving.She was unable to use her instincts to sort out danger with her disorder.We had no idea at the time she was starting to show signs of her schzio-affected disorder

I’m glad to hear you saying this. I got my driver license two months ago in The Netherlands and I have schizophrenia like you. I had to see a psychiatrist before doing the examen and everything was oké. There is no need to argue about a person with such an ilness not being capable to drive because they can be excellent drivers as well like other people.

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My daughter drove my car, unmedicated, with schiz, off and on for the first year of her illness as I really didn’t know what was up with her, and she was living in my house. However, after losing her job several times, I stopped letting her drive basically as it was just additional support I had to pay for: extra insurance, gas and I worried if she would perhaps crash my car and I’d have to fix it. She as mad at me, I told her she could drive when she held a regular job long enough, but she has been unable to work without getting fired for angry outbursts or weird behaviors and I have been unable to keep her on meds as she has no insight. It’s about 1 year now since I stopped lending her my car, and she doesn’t ask anymore. I sometimes wonder if I should have let her have the car to do one job she was offered (night cleaning at a school from midnight to 2 AM) but I was afraid to have her out at night alone every night in my car. Perhaps she could have done that job and everything would have been fine, but I didn’t allow it. Opportunities like that don’t come along very often, and I didn’t even tell her about it.